Counting Calories? You've been lied to!

I wish I had a bottle of cabernet (yes a whole bottle) for every time a client has told me about the latest sexy body diet plan they’re trying out (with no success). There are hundreds online but they’re all the same:

Enjoy your 8 almonds, 3 oz of grilled chicken breast, and 2.5 oz of broccoli for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Buy a scale and weigh literally everything you plan on putting in your mouth
Stick to 1,200 calories a day… 1,500 if you must
Head to Costco for a lifetime supply of 100-calorie snack packs
Yet, every time you weigh your broccoli or open up your 100-calorie oreo pack, a part of you dies. You know this isn’t right… but you tell yourself, this diet plan has so many testimonials… so many raving fans…

It’s ok. I’ve got your back. You’re not crazy for wanting to break your kitchen scale every time you see it.

Because that shitty advice is just dead wrong…..

Here’s why.

Calories are a measure of heat. In 1896, scientists began using the calories that we now love to obsess over as a way to estimate energy intake, expenditure, and absorption. (Yes, over 100 years ago and we still use these calculations today!)

But it’s also important to note that these calculations are only relative to body weight. Meaning, the weight on the scale. The way we calculate calories doesn’t even begin to help us understand our individual and unique body composition (fat mass vs lean body mass).

This conventional wisdom tells us that if we balance energy in with energy out, we’ll stay the same weight, if energy out exceeds energy in, we’ll lose it, right?

Not so fast! Here are just 5 reasons that doesn’t exactly work.

  • Food labels can be off by up to 25%. *
  • Food preparation changes energy absorption, from chopping to cooking.
  • Your gut bacteria and overall gut health determine the quality of digestion and absorption of calories.*
  • Processed foods require less energy to digest, so you’ll absorb more of the calories.*
  • People usually don’t estimate portions properly. (Cue your friend the kitchen scale.)
  • Everyone burns calories differently depending on their weight, genes, sleep, epigenetics, hormones, and brown fat ratio.*

Don’t worry, I can help you make this simple!

Here are a few ways you can begin to see some real changes (while feeling really good). It all starts with learning to balance your meals. You’ll probably need to plan ahead, but it’ll get easier the more you put this into practice!

Focus on including these things in each meal:

  • High quality protein (grass-fed, farm raised, organic)
  • Fresh vegetables (organic when possible)
  • Unprocessed carbohydrate sources (gluten free is best)
  • Healthy fat source (nuts and avocados are great).
  • And plenty of water. 

Here’s a “handy” guide for portions that I share will all of my clients:

Meats and Protein – 1 serving is the size of the palm of your hand
Vegetables – 1 serving is the size of your fist
Starchy Carbohydrates – 1 serving is the size of your cupped palm
Fats – 1 serving is the size of your thumb
*In meals with no starchy carbohydrates (1 -2) double your serving of vegetables.

Does this sound too simple?

Good! Because it’s not hard to eat well and lose weight. It should never feel like punishment or deprivation.

Now, I understand that making change is not easy, be gentle with yourself. If you don’t get it perfect, that’s ok. Just keep making a little more progress every week.

Changing your body is no different than changing your job or the house you live in. You will have ups and downs and you will doubt yourself, but in the end you can do it if you use self-compassion and remember why you want these changes.

How will you feel?

How will your life be better?

Write down your answers on a post-it note and put it on your coffee maker or bathroom mirror — somewhere you’ll see it daily… (especially on the days when you want to fall off the wagon!)

So say it with me, loud and clear: no more calorie counting!



PS — If you’re really serious about changing your body, your health, and your life, send this to a friend who will keep you accountable and cheer you on.

Or better yet, forward this to a friend who will make these changes with you. Nothing helps us make positive changes like having a support group.

* References:

Energy-balance studies reveal associations between gut microbes, caloric load, and nutrient absorption in humans.

Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: nutritional and health implications. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994.

Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets.